Today marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of MTV(Music Television), the first music video channel ever broadcasted. MTV debuted on August 1, 1981 and become the first time music fans can listen and see their favorite artists on screen. Unlike the MTV of today’s generation that shows primarily reality shows, it originally showcased music from rock, pop, and New Wave acts. As the channel evolved throughout the years, it exposed audiences to artists from other musical genres such as hip-hop, R&B, and alternative rock. Before the creation of MTV, people could only hear them on the radio and see them live in concert. The power of video forever changed the way that the music industry would promote their artists.
MTV was the first time in history that an artist’s image would become just as important as the way they sound. Therefore, the image became the focal point and could improve or hinder their career. During the early 1980s, the music industry was going through a transitional period and many artists knew that they had to adapt with the times or get left behind. Artists that were the most successful were able to share their talents through this new medium called music video. Some of these legendary artists included Madonna, Boy George, Cindy Lauper, Duran Duran, Men At Work, George Michael, David Bowie, RUN DMC, and many others.
The greatest advantage that MTV offered many artists was getting the opportunity to create innovative music videos. Music videos were considered “mini movies” containing elements similar to a major Hollywood production such as characters, plot, and setting. For example, one example of a music video that featured all of these elements was the Michael Jackson classic Thriller in 1983. At that time, he was known as the King of Music Videos due to his unique and creative ways of coming up with storylines that would capture the audience’s attention from start to finish.
During the inception of MTV, it did not play any music videos by black artists. It was originally designed to play rock videos at that time. The first black artist that broke the color barrier for other black artists to receive airtime on MTV was Michael Jackson AKA “The King of Pop.” Over time, the channel started to evolve and gain massive exposure in other parts of the world such as Latin America, Europe, and Asia. It will always hold a special place for my generation that grew up on MTV and would go on to became a huge cultural phenomenon that has shaped the lives of young people around the globe.
Watch this YouTube video below to find out more about the history of MTV and leave your comments: